- Movie Rating -

A Secret Love (2020)

| May 1, 2020

The forward interest that will gravitate most viewers to Chris Bolan’s Netflix documentary A Secret Love is, no-doubt, its real-life connection to Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own, the perennial 1992 true story about a group of talented women who were recruited into the All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League, which was formed as a spectator sport during the 1940s when all of the male players were fighting in Europe and the Pacific.  In real life, Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue were players themselves, but they also carried on a clandestine love affair the that movie scrubs completely from the screen.  It is now known that plenty of gay women played for the league at a time when homosexuality was such a hushed, shameful topic that many straight Americans didn’t know that gays and lesbians even existed.

In this intolerant and ignorant atmosphere, Pat and Terry fell in love and struggled to build a life together while keeping their relationship a secret even from those closest to them (they subverted suspicion by telling everyone that they were cousins).  The social landmines that these two women were forced to traverse went on through the decades, yet so strong was their bond that it lasted for an incredible 64 years.

A Secret Love – which was set to premiere at SXSW but went to Netflix due to COVID-19 – is an emotional journey that details Pat and Terry’s difficult past while alternately dealing with their difficult present.  Now in their 80s, they have reached the age in which their health is failing (Terry has Parkinson’s Disease) and they need assistance to get through the basic daily functions.  The bulk of the present-day scenes deal with Pat and Terry having to uproot themselves from a house that they have shared for more than 25 years to move into a assisted living facility where they will be the only same-sex couple.

That’s part of the film’s agenda, to show the couple settling into their sunset years while alternately opening up about who they are and who they’ve been.  What we see in their journey is the bond of human coupling, of what it takes to make it through the riggers of life for so long, we see the minutia of a long and difficult marriage, of how two people connect and stay connected and how they deal with each other.  Bolan is Pat’s great nephew and he is given access to a wealth of information, of old photographs, home movies and newspaper clippings that keeps their story from being scrubbed from history. Seen on the legal side of the same-sex marriage SCOTUS decision, the film is invaluable because it allows these women to tell their story openly and freely and, most importantly, before they shuffle off the mortal coil and then have no story to tell.

The ligature of their present is mostly seen in the decisions about where they will end up. They’ve spent much of their lives in Illinois but the extended family wants them to return to their native Canada, a conservative landscape that Pat happily abandoned long ago. The difficulties with the family create just as much drama as their 64-year journey to stay together.  But it all comes together when they are finally able to get married – a sweet ceremony that will bring a tear to your eye.  But more than that, it’s a finality, reaching a goal that Pat and Terry never thought they would live to see.  It’s a powerful moment, decades in the making and finally worth waiting for.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2020) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized